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Businessman Rinke Launches Campaign for Michigan Governor

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican Kevin Rinke, a former owner of Detroit-area car dealerships, launched his campaign for Michigan governor on Monday with self-funded TV and digital ads that tout him as a conservative outsider and criticize Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Rinke, who had been exploring a bid for months, said he is prepared to spend at least $10 million, shaking up a crowded GOP primary of untested political newcomers. He once owned Rinke Automotive Group; his grandfather had started one of the state’s first General Motors franchises more than a century ago. Rinke later helmed a brain injury rehab facility, a health care company and became a private investor.

Voters “want a leader to put at end to Gov. Whitmer’s assault on our values and our way of life,” he said in a statement. “I’m fighting for their kids, their jobs and their future, and I won’t back down.”

The ads, which cost six figures to air, show Rinke driving a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car. He compares the Democratic governor to a Yugo, a much-maligned compact car from the former, communist-run Yugoslavia.

Rinke decries “a tyrannical government, closed small businesses, illegal immigration, voter fraud, critical race theory.”

He is the 11th Republican in a field that includes former Detroit police chief James Craig, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and ex-online news host Tudor Dixon.

Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite said Rinke’s entry into the race further complicates a “messy, divisive, unsettled primary.”

“Though he plans to set himself apart by trying to buy this election, he stands with the rest of the field in his extreme views and his sole focus on relitigating an election that happened over a year ago over issues that matter to Michigan families, she said. ”Michiganders deserve a governor that’s actually going to fight for working families and the issues they care about, like the recently signed infrastructure law that will invest in fixing local roads and create good-paying jobs.”

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